Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is now open to visitors all year round
THE OFFICIAL VISITOR GUIDE
■ ACTIVITIES TO BOOK TODAY ■ MUST-HAVE EXPERIENCES ■ WHERE TO STAY ■ WHERE TO EAT ■ ITINERARIES TO TRY ■ YOUR HANDY ALULA MAP
LOGOT YPE USES Application over coloured background. Prefer the golden textured version when possible.
erhaps you have seen the captivating photographs of the Nabataean 13 city Hegra, colourful hot air balloons rising above dramatic natural rock formations, and the architecturally striking mirrored concert and entertainment venue Maraya, which reflects the surrounding
desert landscape. But how much do you really know about AlUla? Stretching around 25,000km2 in size and located 1,000km northwest of
Riyadh, this world wonder is home to some of the best-preserved tombs and rock art sites of its era. While it’s not as well-known as some of its UNESCO World Heritage Site neighbours in Jordan and Egypt, that’s all about to change. Today, the historic crossroads that welcomed traders and pilgrims through the ages is open to visitors all year round. Home to more than
For the very first time in its 700 year old history, AlUla Old Town will be open to the public. Explore the labyrinth of mud brick buildings, go on a journey through the town with a rawi, explore the bazaar, watch live re-enactments, learn traditional handicrafts, browse the shops for spices, dates and pottery. This half day experience will be open from late December. Prices range from 67.50 to 135 SAR with discounts for children and locals. experiencealula.com
200,000 years of human history, and five successive civilisations over 7,000 years, AlUla is undergoing a careful and sensitive restoration to ready itself for modern-day guests. As details of its heritage continue to emerge (it’s still an active excavation site), you can write your own story by discovering the preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments that are both natural and human-made. Inside this guide, you will find all the information you need to get the most out of your visit. From the immersive experiences you simply cannot miss (p24) to all the exciting activities to tick off your wish list (p32), places to stay (p52), and where to go for a memorable meal (p62) – delve into our comprehensive round-up of everything that’s on offer. Plus, we asked a number of local experts and previous visitors to share their insight into making the most of your time in this monumental and aweinspiring destination – you’ll find their words woven throughout these pages. We hope you enjoy your visit to AlUla.
experiencealula.com Welcome 2 1
A snapshot of AlUla
TIMELINE through the ages
MAP OF THE REGION Get your bearings
DID YOU KNOW? Check out these
CULTURE & TRADITIONS An insight into the people of AlUla
HISTORY A quick history lesson
ALULA MAP See where all the major sites and attractions are
on all the major sites
located with our detailed
map of AlUla
to tick off your wish list
The ultimate round-up
of tours, trails and
A dossier of useful
activities on offer,
info, from travel tips
including how to book
to emergency numbers
Plan your days to
How to be a
perfection with our
WHAT TO SEE & DO
LEAVE NO TRACE
HEALTH & SAFETY
WHERE TO STAY
Travel safety measures
High-end hotels, luxury
to help your trip run
desert camps and
The Hot Air Balloon Festival at Hegra
Cover: AlUla Oasis
WHERE TO EAT Restaurants, cafĂŠs, food trucks, pop-ups and more
DEVELOPMENTS A sneak peek at future
Tourism Call Centre: +966 920 025 003 experiencealula.com Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from Royal Commission for AlUla is strictly prohibited. The Royal Commission for AlUla does not accept liability for omissions or errors in this guidebook. The AlUla Quality Stamp is a sign of excellence awarded to businesses, service providers and touch points that are committed to upholding the highest standards of visitor experience across the destination. Look out for it at the time of booking to ensure a world-class visitor experience from start to finish.
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AlUla is undergoing significant development to diversify the economy, give back to the community and welcome domestic and international visitors to one of the worldâ€™s most significant culture and heritage destinations. The information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. However, much ongoing work is being undertaken to bring further engaging experiences, accommodation, eateries and more to AlUla over the course of the next months and years. For the latest updates and information, see experiencealula.com or call our information line on +920025003.
Al Faisaliah Hotel, Riyadh
SHIFTING SANDS How the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia grew from humble roots into an Arab superpower
he Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 under the rule of King
Abdulaziz Al Saud, who united the which supercharged the country’s development. Yet to this day, the Kingdom stays true to its roots by blending culture, heritage and Islamic values with modernity. Saudi Arabia is home to the Two
Holy Mosques: Al Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Islam’s holiest city and the site of the Kaaba, and The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The country is blessed with a varied topography, including a generous portion of the Rub’ al Khali (a vast, unbroken sand desert that stretches across the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula), the Hijaz mountain range in the western region, and a beautiful stretch of Red Sea coast. The capital city, Riyadh, is the main financial metropolis while Jeddah, on the Red Sea, is a popular resort hub, as well as being a gateway for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Today, the country is ruled by His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy
*Source: UNWTO (arrivals of non-resident tourists at national borders)
land. Oil was discovered in 1938,
A minaret in Makkah
‘The Kingdom stays true to its roots, by blending culture, heritage and Islamic values with modernity’
Mosques, who ascended the throne in 2015. His son, His Royal Highness
development, to create a vibrant
explore. More than 400,000
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
society in which all citizens can fulfill
tourist visas were issued between
bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is first in
their dreams, hopes and ambitions
September 2019 and March 2020,
line to the throne, has been influential
to succeed in a diversified economy.
before the implementation of global
in diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and liberalising various laws. Currently, the government is
Part of this is opening its doors to tourists. Saudi Arabia received more than 13.6 million international
restrictions on air travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Arabian Peninsula has
working towards its Vision 2030,
tourists in 2019* and with the launch
long been a crossroads of
which sets out the longer-term
of the tourist eVisa programme in
ancient civilisations and Saudi
goals and expectations for the
September 2019, leisure travellers
Arabia’s hidden gem, AlUla, is an
nation. It marks a new phase of
are being encouraged to go and
extraordinary example of this.
Saudi Arabia 5
Culture & traditions
THE PEOPLE OF ALULA
Ahmed Alimam, the first rawi of AlUla, shares an insight into the culture of the local people and their treasured traditions
good deeds for the teacher, such
rich ancestry and are resilient,
as collecting water or firewood, in
self-sufficient and, of course,
exchange for teaching your children.
they love welcoming guests,”
So the new school gave the youth
says Ahmed Alimam, the first rawi
of that generation an opportunity
(traditional Arabic storyteller) of AlUla.
to get a job. Many who graduated
“The families who live here have
The people of AlUla have a
records tracing their lineage over 600
and Tabuk, or at government
and tourism, with a chance to study in
years. People generally know the exact
offices around the Kingdom. So
France, the US, the UK and Australia
date their ancestors came to AlUla,
we have something of a missing
before returning to work in AlUla.
where they travelled from and why.
generation from AlUla, although
The papers usually record what items
some of them do return to retire.
they brought with them, whose house
“Nowadays, many students have
“I grew up in a family that was naturally very interested in the history and heritage of AlUla Old Town.
they stayed in and if they later went
taken part in a scholarship programme,
Many of our conversations revolved
on to buy their own house and farm.
which invites them to earn a degree in
around the civilisations that lived here
My family name means ‘the person
agriculture, archaeology, or hospitality
and every weekend we would visit
who leads people in the prayer’, as one of my great grandfathers was the Imam of the mosque in 851 AH
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
went on to work in Riyadh, Jeddah
‘The families here have records tracing their lineage over 600 years’
(in the Islamic calendar – around
A local artisan shows her skills
1448/1449 CE). One of my other
grandfathers worked as a tribal judge.
“The ways in which the people lived have evolved over time. More than 200 years ago, the community needed to defend and protect their homes and natural reserves from potential attack from outsiders. With an impenetrable wall around AlUla Old Town, residents could happily live inside for many years due to the plentiful supply of water from the natural springs, the lush vegetation and palm trees, which provided materials for many uses, from building our homes to making our clothes. “Around 70-80 years ago, things changed when one of the first government schools in Saudi Arabia was opened in AlUla. The payment to attend school before this was doing
Culture & traditions 7
Restaurant covered in palm fronds
‘We are excited that AlUla is returning to its roots as a crossroads for cultural exchange’
the town, the farms and go climbing in the mountains. My mum used to take her sheep and goats to feed at the desert springs, so we have a solid experience of exploring the land and all the major heritage sites.
‘A fascinating collection of more than 100 tombs tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla’
“I studied English and graduated in 2008, when I immediately started my own tour guide business. “AlUla residents are still as welcoming as they've always been. When caravans arrived during pre-Islamic times, the people gave them what they needed, from dates to eat, to somewhere to rest. But the people were smart in that they adapted their offering to appeal to those travelling through. Around 1,000 years ago, for instance, AlUla became famous for making swords and selling horses to travellers from Egypt and Spain. It makes us wonder what modern visitors need today. “The area has been very respectfully prepared for tourists, with all the plans discussed in consultation with the community. The local people want their stories to be heard and we are excited that AlUla is returning to its roots as a crossroads for cultural exchange.” FACETS OF ALULA Ahmed highlights four more reasons why AlUla will capture your imagination… ALULA IS A DREAM FOR TRAVELLERS “Personally, I love the sense of stillness you experience here. But AlUla answers many tourist needs, including outdoor adventure, wellness, heritage and entertainment. 8 experiencealula.com
Culture & traditions 9
Sharing the date harvest
k bu Ta
each other. Our neighbours are like family
and our homes are like hotels. Relatives
rd wa To
“We’re a small community so we all know
YOU’LL LOVE THE COMMUNITY VIBE
HEGRA, UNESCO Heritage Site
of the families living here usually come for their summer holidays, so there are house. It’s crowded, but we thrive on it.”
YOU FOR HOURS ask if the visitors can come to their farm
and have lunch or dinner with them.
the invitations keep flowing.”
WE RESPECT THE NATURAL WORLD
Ashar Valley 26
Jabal AlAhmar P3
Qasr As Sanea
Area of Prehistoric Burial Mounds Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza
See and Do
Elephant Rock Jabal Ikmah
AlUla Fresh Farm
An aerial view of date palms at AlUla Oasis
34 36 Shaden
Heritage and Art gift shop
Wadi Of Hospitality 9 AlUla Old Town
AL FURSAN VILLAGE
certain songs we like to sing to them.”
Shaden RV Park
31 Bike Trail
Sahary AlUla Resort
Musa Bin Nusayr Castle
1 Hijaz Railway
Rawis are a special class of tour guide. The term ‘rawi’ translates to ‘storyteller’, and each has a specialist knowledge of the heritage sites, as well as their own family history to share. The term
2 Hegra 3 Hegra Fort 4 Jabal Ikmah
Bike Park & Dune Buggies
7 Tantura Sundial
Bike Park & Dunes Buggies
Sahary AlUla Resort
Shaden RV Park
Ashar Valley Resort
Ashar RV Park
Eateries & Essentials
6 AlUla Old Town
THE ORIGINS OF THE RAWI
ort Towards Airp
‘We respect palm trees because they are a source of life and they are useful in so many ways’
tree replied, “then I will die”. It reminds visit your palm tree. There are even
Tomb of Malkiyun The Diviner
Ashar Valley Resort
are useful in so many ways. There’s
us to never be absent – to always
Hegra Wells Ancient City
they are a source of life and they
back, “then I won’t visit you” and the
of us. We respect palm trees because
that it wouldn’t die, so the man shot
Finger Rocks 15
“The palm tree is like the mother of all
anymore. The palm tree responded
Even though we have the itineraries,
in anger that he wouldn’t water it
(The Diwan & The Siq)
The Siq & The Diwan
“When I am doing my tours, the locals
a splinter from a palm tree and said
1 Northern Gate
Hijaz Railway & Visitor Center 3 Hegra Fort
SHARAAN NATURE RESERVE
THE LOCALS WILL ENTERTAIN
an old story about a man who got
From Northern Gate (Hijaz Railway)
usually three or four families living in one
8 Musa Bin Nusayr Castle
Heritage and Art gift shop
Parking Areas P1
comes from a time when skilled
10 Wadi Of Hospitality
storytellers in the community
11 Elephant Rock
12 Jar Rock
Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza
of entertaining people around the campfire, in the days before television. The rawis were highly regarded and celebrated for their abilities to recite much-loved
13 Hand Rock 14 Harrat Uwayrid 15 Finger Rocks
16 The Siq & The Diwan 17 Face Rock 328
19 Rainbow Rock 20
Sharaan Nature Reserve
audience with their gripping tales.
Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport
18 Dancing Rock
poems and to captivate the
Toward Red S ea
would have the informal role
9 AlUla Fresh Farm
To w a
Culture & traditions 11
c. 300 million years ago AUSTRALIA
LAND OF LEGEND
c. 252 million years ago PALAEOZOIC • Trilobites in sandstone 200,000 BCE or earlier PALAEOLITHIC • Handaxe among earliest discovered in Arabia c. 5200 BCE NEOLITHIC • Ritual deposits of animal skulls, horns and teeth
Saudi Arabia’s hidden gem has been a magnet for intrepid travellers for millennia and now it’s your turn to uncover the stories that shaped this wonder of the world
nce upon a time, AlUla was a thriving hub of
c. 5000-2000 BCE LATE PREHISTORY • Monumental burials and seasonal campsites 2550 BCE EGYPT
Hot air balloons soar above Hegra Fort
activity. Located in the northwest of the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia, approximately 1,000km from Riyadh, the ancient city has been a beacon of cultural
c. 100 BCE-106 CE JORDAN
exchange for thousands of years, due to its role as a crossroads along the incense trading route and the pilgrimage route to Makkah. All those who passed through – including 14th
70-80 CE ITALY
century Arab traveller Ibn Battuta – are thought to have received a warm welcome by settlers through the ages
the tale of all those who once called it
is much to see and do, at whatever
who thrived on the natural bounty of
home. And with recent archaeological
pace you desire.
discoveries charting more than
Today, AlUla is a fascinating immersion into Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and deep-rooted history.
New guided treks and immersive
200,000 years of human history in
tours are on offer, as well as
AlUla, there’s a lot to learn.
action-packed activities at the new
Feel the energy at Saudi Arabia’s
Adventure Canyon. Accommodation
Open to visitors all year round from
first UNESCO World Heritage Site,
is available to suit all types of
October 2020, travellers in search
Hegra, which has more than 100
travellers, from luxury desert
of a meaningful experience will be
intricately carved tomb façades to
resorts to self-catering recreational
rewarded with a coveted glimpse of
discover. Weave your way through
vehicles (RVs) that offer a glamping
the culture, heritage and mysticism
the labyrinthine streets of the
of the Arabian Peninsula and the
abandoned AlUla Old Town, examine
early civilisations that lived there.
centuries-old rock inscriptions at
made visitor-ready with conservation
The region is also significant to the
Jabal Ikmah, and explore the remains
in mind. The sensitive development
story of Islam – it is believed that the
of the ancient kingdom of Dadan.
of the area is part of Saudi Arabia’s
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) paid
After exploring the active
Rest assured that AlUla has been
Vision 2030, to diversify the
several visits to Wadi Al-Qura (the
excavation sites and rich culture and
economy and open up the country to
Valley of the Villages located at the
heritage, there are many other ways
international tourism, aided by the
heart of the oasis).
to enjoy AlUla. With its extraordinary
launch of the Saudi eVisa programme
natural landscapes – a lush oasis
in September 2019.
The largely untouched landscape, with its imposing landmarks carved
filled with sheltering palm groves,
by nature and its settlers, is a lesson
mind-blowing lookout points for
heritage, art, nature and adventure
in human resilience and endeavour.
stargazing, valleys, canyons, work-
are intertwined, AlUla offers a unique
Its four main heritage sites – Hegra
of-art rock formations and farms
travel experience that expands
and the Hijaz Railway, AlUla Old
offering dates, mangoes, mint, basil
the mind – and it’s all just waiting to
Town, Dadan, and Jabal Ikmah – tell
and a variety of citrus fruits – there
c. 900-100 BCE ANCIENT NORTH ARABIAN KINGDOMS • Multiple scripts and languages inscribed in stone • Prosperity from incense trade • Water management and cultivation in the AlUla Valley, developing the oasis
c. 100 BCE-106 CE NABATAEAN KINGDOM • Spectacular carved tombs • Prosperity from incense trade • Oasis development on the Hegra Plain 106 CE-c. 400 CE ROMAN PRESENCE • Roman camp at Hegra • Southernmost inland limit of the Roman Empire c. 400-622 CE PRE-ISLAMIC
1000 CE RAPA NUI
1648 CE INDIA
1889 CE FRANCE
c. 622-1200 CE EARLY ISLAMIC • Prosperity from trade and pilgrimage to Makkah • Largest city after Makkah in the 10th century c. 1200-present LATER ISLAMIC • AlUla Old Town is the cultural heart of AlUla from c. 1200 until the 1980s
1870-1980 CE MODERN TIMES • Western explorers discover and document AlUla • Hijaz Railway built to modernise pilgrim travel
An extraordinary place where
FAST FACTS Count the ways in which AlUla will capture your imagination
YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY TO TRACE
JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Trace over 200,000 years of human history at this crossroads on ancient incense trading and pilgrimage routes, where civilisations thrived to leave a fascinating collection of wonders as their legacy Hegra
Traditional buildings to explore at AlUla Old Town
Delve into the stories of AlUlaâ€™s most significant heritage sites in this open-air, living museum. Marvel at the sandstone rock masterpieces, which have been sculpted by nature and its skilled settlers over thousands of years.
Date palm trees delivering a bumper harvest
THE SILENT CITY Hegra is Saudi Arabiaâ€™s first UNESCO World Heritage Site (it was inscribed onto the list in 2008) and a thriving Nabataean city from the middle of the 1st century BCE until around the 2nd century CE. Research also suggests that,
1st UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia: Hegra
after 106 CE, it was likely to have been the most southerly outpost of the Roman Empire in Arabia. A
fascinating collection of more than
well-preserved monumental tombs to discover
100 monumental decorated tombs carved into the colossal sandstone outcrops that surround the ancient city, are impressively well preserved. Hegra
29 VARIETIES OF FRAGRANT CITRUS FRUITS GROWING ON THE FARMS
mirrors adorn the concert and entertainment venue Maraya 10,000 SQM of
‘A fascinating collection of more than 100 tombs tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla’ They tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla, with the carefully carved inscriptions on many, helping to piece together the puzzle of those buried within. You can learn about the destination’s roots as an historic hub for travel and trade at the Hijaz Railway experience. Running through AlUla, the Hijaz Railway began construction from 1900 and stretches to Medina and Damascus, modernising the way that pilgrims travelled. Due to the outbreak of World War I, its full route, which would have extended all the way to the Holy City of Makkah, was never completed. Today, the station at Hegra houses an original locomotive. At the southern end of the station is Hegra Fort, which was built in the 18th century CE and later restored. Stroll around the double water tower and renovated reservoir that used to nourish a small garden of pomegranate trees and date palms and cast your mind back to a time when pilgrims would arrive in search of food and shelter. 16 experiencealula.com
NABATAEAN HORIZON Pause for reflection at Maraya. This award-winning, Guinness-WorldRecord-setting architectural marvel, designed by Italian architects Gio Forma, is covered in great swathes of mirrors – 9,740sqm to be exact – that reflect the surrounding desert landscape. The cube-shaped building, with its 26-metre-high theatre, is a 600-seat concert and entertainment venue where acclaimed artists including
Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Yanni
Once a revered site on the ancient
trade routes, Jabal Ikmah is home to over 500 inscriptions, both carved and in relief (raised), mostly dating to the Dadanite and Lihyanite Kingdoms of the 1st millennium BCE. A veritable open-air library, the hundreds of carvings that adorn the cliff faces and rocks depict the site’s rich history of pilgrimages, cultural rituals and more. Take your time studying the inscriptions as well as petroglyphs (rock art) depicting humans, musical instruments and animals, which offer an insight into the everyday lives of the people who lived there, as well as those who travelled through.
‘Trace the footsteps of traders and pilgrims of a bygone era who enjoyed a bountiful place to rest at AlUla Oasis’ ANCIENT ARABIAN KINGDOMS The ancient city of Dadan is considered to have been one of
the most developed 1st millennium BCE cities in the Arabian Peninsula. Home to two kingdoms dating to the late 9th and early 8th century BCE
mudbrick houses and town squares,
(Kingdom of Dadan) and the 5th to
You can trace the footsteps of traders
the walled AlUla Old Town was once
the 2nd century BCE (Kingdom of
and pilgrims of a bygone era who
a hub of activity. Located in the
shines a light on AlUla’s agricultural
Lihyan), this must-see heritage site
enjoyed a bountiful place to rest,
narrowest part of the AlUla valley, it
clout. Although the crops that are
is an architectural feat of its time.
recuperate and socialise at AlUla
was established in the 12th century CE
grown there have evolved over time,
Make your way towards the tombs
Oasis. Nestled within Wadi AlQura
and continuously inhabited through
date palms continue to dominate.
that have been cut into the red-
(Valley of Villages), this lush haven is
to the 20th century CE, with the last
Evidence of the fruit has been
rock cliff faces east of the city and
awash with date palms, citrus trees
wave of settlers moving on in the
discovered in funerary remains
see if you can spy the seated lion
and herbs such as basil and mint,
1980s. It is being unveiled to visitors
at Hegra suggesting that, to the
sculptures. It’s thought that these
which thrive on the natural spring
for the first time in December 2020,
Nabataeans, dates represented a
ferocious protectors mark the resting
water that surrounds them.
complete with must-have experiences
symbolic link between the living and
that will immerse you in the everyday
places of elite members of society. 18 experiencealula.com
With its maze of winding alleyways,
lives and customs of the villagers. The summer farm, AlWadi Farm,
RISE UP Take in the striking scenery that the settlers and visitors to AlUla have enjoyed for millennia, by getting an up-close look at the dramatic rock formations that dot the desert landscape. One of AlUla’s most recognisable, The Arch (also known as Rainbow Rock), is well worth the 90-minute drive from the centre of the city. Its bridge-shaped structure, which resembles a rainbow flanked by two clouds, is a rare sight indeed. Similarly, Elephant Rock (also known as Jabal AlFil) has captured the imagination of keen photographers the world over. As the name suggests, this red sandstone marvel is shaped like an elephant with a distinctive ‘trunk’ and ‘body’ – the result of millions of years of wind and water erosion. It’s a popular camping spot, especially during festivals when the structure is bathed in light and campers can take the chance to ride a horse or camel, keep warm by the firepits, and dine on delights from the pop-up eateries. There’s also Al Gharameel, which has dark thin pillars of stone stretching up to the sky. Dancing Rocks is so-called due to its two large pillars that appear as if they are swaying in unison, while Face Rock resembles the profile of a human head. THE LOOKOUT AlUla is blessed with numerous lookout points that offer an elevated view of the epic landscape. Scale the black lava stone terrain of Harrat Uwayrid and you’ll be rewarded with views over Dadan, AlUla Old Town, Musa bin Nusayr Castle and AlUla Oasis. Arrive before sundown to soak up the sights and sounds of the golden hour, when the sky’s orange glow adds a magical touch to the scene.
Get your tourist visa Visiting from abroad? You can apply for a tourist visa online at visa.visitsaudi.com. This one-year, multiple entry visa allows you to spend up to 90 days in the country as a visitor. Currently, the eVisa is available to tourists from 49 countries. If your country is not eligible, contact your nearest Saudi Arabia Embassy.
HOW TO GET THERE
a hyper luxury experience. Check at the
Visitor Centres or call the information
AlUla is around three-and-a-half
hotline +920025003 for further details.
hours’ drive from both Medina (to the south) and Tabuk (north).
Alternatively, you can roll your visit
The nearest airport is Prince Abdul
into a road trip by setting off from
Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic
Jeddah (approximately 7½ hours) or
Airport (ULH), which is located around
Riyadh (10 hours). AlUla’s new taxi
35 kilometres southeast of AlUla. You
service offers clean and comfortable
can fly in with Saudia (saudia.com) via
transport from the airport to your
Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Direct
accommodation and around. If you’re
flights from wider destinations, such as
arriving from overseas, there are lots
Dubai, are planned for the near future.
of places to hire a car, including at AlUla Guides (+966 553338228) and Yelo (+966 559502782). Saudi Arabia’s well-connected road network makes it easy to find your way from A to B – just be sure to bring your driving licence. Alternatively, you can hire a driver, book a taxi from Uber or Careem, or book a limo service for
‘Dramatic rock formations dot the desert landscape’
WHEN TO GO There is plenty to see and do in AlUla all year round. Temperatures range from 10-25°C during the winter months (from October to April). AlUla Season, which normally takes place from December to March every year, brings an exciting line-up of cultural, sporting and art events to enjoy. Summer temperatures hover around 30-40°C. During the peak, in July and August, the date harvest lures foodies eager to be among the first to taste the prized fruits.
Mikhail Tenazas at the Airstream RV Resort in Ashar
21 MUSTHAVE EXPERIENCES
SEE THE SUN RISE OVER THE CANYONS
“Waking up early to watch the sun rise over AlUla’s majestic rock formations will definitely go down as one of my favourite travel memories,” says Mikhail Tenazas, content creator and travel photographer (see @TheTravelPro, @WeLiveToExplore and @ TheGlobeWanderer). “The view from the Airstream RV camp in the Ashar Valley, where I stayed,
Make the most of your time in AlUla by seeking out these memorable moments
During the Hot Air Balloon Festival, take to the skies at dawn and glide peacefully above UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra. You’ll be able to spot wells and burial grounds hidden on top of the sandy outcrops that are only visible from above. Hot Air Balloon Festival, AlUla
is incredible. AlUla has such a fascinating history and a very rich heritage that has been wonderfully preserved and still
Transport yourself back in time at AlUla Oasis. Make your way through the palm groves on camelback and sample the varieties of zingy citrus fruits, such as the Jaffa orange, along the way.
largely untouched by the outside world. Travelling here is like going back in time.”
Catch the magical moment when the sunlight illuminates the path of The Siq at Jabal Ithlib, the Holy Mountain at Hegra. The perfect time for this falls roughly between 9.30am and 11am. There’s a 30-minute window when the rays shine through.
Wish list 25
Laura Alho at Rainbow Rock
Visit the Dancing Rocks in the Raggasat Valley, so-called because these rocks are sculpted by nature and appear as if they are dancing together. The valley is a top spot for hiking and dune buggying.
Head to Al Gharameel in the evening and get comfortable on a traditional carpet so you can gaze up at the twinkling stars. Listen to tales of the past from the expert stargazer and feel connected to the universe.
Take time out to mingle with the friendly locals at Winter Park over a cup of freshly brewed Arabic coffee.
Get back in touch with the natural world by going horse trekking through the breathtaking AlWadi area. (Bookable, see page 32).
FIND GEMS AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW “Search for treasure at the end of Rainbow Rock, a sandstone arch that’s a 90-minute
drive north of AlUla,” says Laura Alho, a Finnish adventure traveller who has lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years (see blueabaya.com and @Blueabaya). “Here, you can find semi-precious desert diamonds (quartz) scattered on the ground, as well as embedded in the rock. They come in a variety of colours and are beautiful to look at. Hold the translucent ones up to the sky so the sunlight shines through them, bringing their natural hues to life. There are some local jewellery makers who use these and other semi-precious stones in their creations, which are sold at the marketplace in AlUla Old Town. Rainbow Rock isn’t the only place to find them, but the number there, as well as the quality and size of them, is exceptional.”
Wish list 27
Make your way to Elephant Rock in time to see the sun rise, when sunrays and shadows dance on the rock faces.
Catch the afternoon sunrays at Maraya. This giant mirrored reflector provides the perfect lighting for your photoshoot of Ashar Valley.
Heed nature’s wake-up call by watching the sunrise from your terrace while staying at one of luxury deserts resorts. (Turn to page 52 to see our accommodation options).
ENJOY THE TRANQUILLITY OF THE DESERT "Lose yourself in the natural maze of the rocky mountains of AlUla," says Abdullah AlJumah, travel writer and influencer (see @ aaljumah). “With the high altitude and intense proximity, it feels like Manhattan made by nature. But here you will only experience the tranquillity of the desert, and echoes of the calls of eagles roaming the clear sky.”
UNPLUG IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS
“Mountain climbing is my favourite thing to do in AlUla," says Abdulaziz Albalawi, a photographer born and raised in AlUla (@Aziz.alula). “In a world flooded by screens, sometimes just taking the time to unplug and go outside can do wonders.” If you want to go hiking in the mountains, please stay safe by requesting the services of a local, qualified expert to accompany you.
Wish list 29
Sam Kølder at Jabal Ikmah
Find the perfect spot to sit and gaze at the Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza at Hegra. Being beside this stunning tomb, which is a favourite among photographers, is a humbling experience.
Get the perfect Instagram shot by asking your rawi to take you to their favourite selfie spots. Harrat Uwayrid, and the hidden canyons and rock formations, are the ideal backdrop for enchanting sunset photos.
Watch artisans making crafts with palm fronds at the Handicrafts Pavilion in AlUla Old Town.
Feel a rush of adrenaline, and the wind in your hair, by zooming along the zipline at Harrat Uwayrid. (Bookable, see page 32).
For something truly memorable, take to the clear blue sky in a vintage aircraft, flying high above AlUla for a breathtaking view of this open-air living museum.
Go hunting for rock art in Ashar during the evening, lighting the way with a lamp in hand. A rawi can guide you, imparting their wisdom of how ancient civilisations carved their messages into the sandstone. SHARE YOUR STORIES
EXPLORE WITH CHILD-LIKE CURIOSITY “Walk through the narrow gorges in the
rock clusters of Jabal Ikmah and imagine a time when humans roamed the land without the modern day technology we are all so used to today,” says
We’d love to hear about your
Sam Kølder, a creative director and filmmaker
best experiences in AlUla. Tell
@samkolder. “Our guide jokingly said that the etchings
us about them via our social
on the walls are like Twitter, but thousands of years ago.
It was a way to communicate where to find water, tell stories and share art. What a way to live.”
Please note that while the majority of these experiences are available now, there are a number that are being unveiled over the coming months – turn to the What to Do section on page 32 for further information. 30 experiencealula.com
Wish list 31
What to do
READY, SET, EXPLORE Unlock the secrets of this open-air museum, where an exciting collection of immersive experiences and activities bring its stories to life – simply book online at experiencealula.com
also a dedicated performance
passageway through the mountains.
inside the tombs. It’s an intimate
First up is the Hijaz Railway
area where actors recreate a
Continue your journey of discovery
experience, with only five riders
experience, which will deepen
traditional wedding ceremony,
at Jabal AlAhmar. There, a
at a time. You’ll be accompanied
your understanding of AlUla as
inviting you to take part in treasured
necklace made of date stones
by a professional photographer
a prominent hub for travel and
rituals, such as being adorned
was discovered in a tomb that
who will snap some pictures of you
exploration. The historic station
with henna art. (The activities
was excavated between 2008
against the backdrop of captivating
houses an original locomotive,
are being phased in. Please visit
and 2014, revealing this and other
sandstone rock. There’s no need
and you can pick up a headset
experiencealula.com for updates.)
evidence of Nabataean burial
to pre-book this experience – it’s
items and practices. You can
operated on a first-come, first-
for an immersive audio guide (available by end of December
Hone your knowledge of the
investigate the significance of
served basis and takes around
2020) that will transport you to a
inner workings of Nabataean
date jewellery, and have a go at
20-30 minutes. You can also explore
time when merchants and pilgrims
society, from how they built their
making your very own necklace, by
on foot, if you prefer. Make sure you
traversed the land. Learn how
settlements to the ways in which
joining in the hands-on workshop.
factor in enough time to watch the
the construction of the railway,
they practiced their religion, at
which began in 1900, helped to
Jabal Ithlib, a natural mountain
unique opportunity to spell
(Qasr AlSania), which spotlights the
modernise the way that pilgrims
outcrop to the east of Hegra. Take
your name from the Nabataean
Nabataean society and ways of life.
travelled. The railway is currently
a peek inside The Diwan, a rock-cut
alphabet. Watch as the calligrapher
Take the chance to interact with the
on the Tentative List for UNESCO
chamber that was once a venue
writes your name in beautiful
actors, as the audience becomes part
World Heritage Site recognition.
for sumptuous banquets, and a
script before presenting it to
of the narrative. With impressive sets,
meeting room for the leaders of
you as a framed memento.
special effects, and some surprises
You will also be afforded the
play, Tomb of Malkiyun the Diviner
he Royal Commission for
in November, with the remainder
AlUla is excited to reopen
to follow in December. Before you
The AlFegeer Mud Houses offer
the city. Use the Experience AlUla
Explore Jabal AlBanat, one of the
thrown in for good measure, this
three of the main heritage
visit, please see the latest details
a rare glimpse of the Bedouin
app to see the hall transformed
largest clusters of tombs, exactly
20-30 minute play is a must-see.
sites – Hegra, Dadan and
on what to expect and associated
lifestyle. The site is home to farms
to its former glory, complete with
as the Bedouins did – atop a camel.
prices at experiencealula.com.
built after 1940, as well as two
guests enjoying the feast. You’ll also
Those long camel legs will raise
• There are regular bus and taxi
prominent castles: Sheikh Shihab
find The Siq here, a natural narrow
you to the perfect height to peek
services to Hegra. In addition,
Jabal Ikmah – to visitors from 30 October 2020. On arrival in AlUla, you will be welcomed at a newly
THE HEGRA EXPERIENCE
enhanced airport, driven around
Hegra is the largest conserved
and Sheikh Sultan Castle (built in
in clean, comfortable new taxis,
site of the Nabataean civilisation
1905), which enjoys an elevated
and have access to air-conditioned
south of Petra in Jordan, and
position atop a mountain. There are
transport to take you between the
Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World
three tented areas offering hands-
key sites and around Hegra. Rawis
Heritage Site. Home to more than
on activities designed to stimulate
(Arabic and English storytellers)
100 tombs carved from giant rock
all the senses. Make handicrafts
are waiting to accompany you
formations, the ancient settlement
under the guidance of local women,
on your journey of discovery and
begs discovery. Take an up-close
learn the steps to traditional dances,
deepen your appreciation of these
look at the rock inscriptions, which
and try your hand at milking a
incredible sites. Alternatively,
reveal where elite members of
camel. Members of the Beidha
you can explore at your own
society, such as healers, military
community will welcome you with
pace by using the Experience
figures and local leaders were laid to
hearty homemade dishes, and wise
AlUla app – see QR code below.
rest. From the instantly recognisable
elders will tell their stories. There’s
Please note that the activations
Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, which
and immersive experiences at
is cut into a single large outcrop,
the heritage sites, as detailed in
to the concentrated collection of
this guide, will be seasonal from
tombs at Jabal AlKhuraymat and
November 2020. This includes the
the prehistoric burial mounds at
live re-enactments, handicrafts'
Tomb of Malkiyun the Diviner, it’s
workshops, archaeological digs,
time to unpack the history of this
souqs and more. A selection of the
significant archaeological site.
adventure activities will be available
There is so much to discover…
Castle (constructed around 1880) Hegra tombs
WHAT’S ON AT HEGRA? Daytime: Hijaz Railway, AlFegeer Mud Houses, Jabal Ithlib, Jabal AlBanat, Jabal AlAhmar, Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, the well, the Handicrafts Pavilion and the viewing point at the centre of Hegra. Evening: Hijaz Railway and
KEY Duration Opening hours How much Winter: October to March Summer: April to September 32 experiencealula.com
AlFegeer Mud Houses. You can also see the shows at The Diwan, as well as Jabal AlBanat and Jabal AlKhuraymat (see evening experiences). The Hegra evening Download our location specific interactive app
experiences are being phased in over the coming months.
What to do 33
A GRIPPING TALE
you can park free of charge at the main entrance gate, from where a
Mashail Makki, who was born and raised
shuttle bus will take you to Hijaz
You can transport yourself
in AlUla, is the city’s first female tour guide.
Railway station, where you will
around Hegra thanks
She swapped her job as an English teacher
be met by a member of staff.
to the hop-on-hop-off
to follow her passion for sharing stories
• Rawis (Arabic and English
of her ancestors in 2017. Today, she runs
storytellers) are available at the main
coach that operates
heritage tours in Hegra, AlUla Old Town and
stop-off points to accompany you on
continuously on a circular
your journey of discovery. Alternatively,
route around the site. It
you can explore at your own pace by
leaves every 30 minutes,
story of Buthina, which is an Arabic take on
using the Experience AlUla app or
stopping at four key
the fairy-tale Rapunzel. As the myth goes,
the audio guides, available (in English
points, and is included
Buthina’s father AlHedri was a very rich man
and Arabic from December 2020).
in your ticket price. Once
and she was his only child. AlHedri
you’ve finished exploring,
built a small room for her in a house atop
simply catch the coach
Please allow approximately 2-4
“During my Hegra tour, I like to tell the
"One day, when AlHedri was travelling, a
hours for the complete Hegra
back to the Hijaz Railway
day experience, plus extra time
where you can grab a bite
young handsome man, Asana, passed by
to take in the evening shows.
to eat and a drink, and
the house and heard Buthina’s beautiful
(From December 2020).
browse the gift shop for
singing. He called out that he wanted to
keepsakes before you
come to her, so she let down her long hair
and he climbed up to her window. They fell
Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry is the 3-4.30pm slot). The Hegra evening experiences (phased in over the coming
Alternatively, you can
in love and soon Buthina discovered she was
months) will run from 8pm-11pm.
opt for a relaxing trot
expecting a baby. She sung a poem about
Day tour tickets (single entry) are
around all the major sites
her situation, which quickly spread across
SAR 97 for adults and SAR 48
in a horse-drawn carriage.
for children (aged 5-12) from 31
The carriages go from the
Oct 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.
Hijaz Railway to Tomb of
found out what had happened and killed
Lihyan son of Kuza and
them both. I then point to a tomb that
Jabal AlBanat during
has what appears to be a bloodstain on it.
the day. Pre-booking not
However, as I later reveal, it’s actually just a
required. Operated on a
chemical reaction on the stone. People are
for children. SAR 20 for AlUla
transfixed by this story and it reminds me of
residents all year round. Those
my grandparents who used to tell it to me
Daily from 8am to noon, 4pm-6pm and 7pm-11pm. SAR 195 and SAR 97 for children. SAR 97 for adults and SAR 48
aged 4 and under go free.
"When her father returned, he immediately
when I was a little girl.”
ANCIENT ARABIAN KINGDOMS
on the north side of Dadan. (This
Dadan and Jabal Ikmah
winter season, at various times).
Explore the ruins of the ancient
activity is available daily during the Next, you can move on to Jabal
Kingdom of Dadan, one of the most
Ikmah to examine the hundreds of
developed 1st millennium BCE cities
inscriptions and writings on the cliffs
in the Arabian Peninsula. Head to the
and rock faces that date mainly to
east of the city to see more than a
the Dadanite and Lihyanite periods.
dozen tombs cut into the red-rock cliff
A natural outcrop at Hegra
faces, including the famous Lion Tombs
marked by seated lion sculptures.
• Transfers available from the
Archaeologists continue to discover
south to the north of Dadan in a
exciting information about Dadan – it’s
vintage Jeep. The journey takes
still a live excavation site. You can find
approximately 6 minutes.
out more about it by taking part in
• You can be accompanied by
the hands-on workshop, Archaeology
a rawi who will impart their
for Everyone (40 minutes), which
knowledge of the area.
is a great family activity. You’ll be
• Complimentary refreshments
given your very own archaeology
and snacks are available. Plus,
kit and you can use the tools to dig
there is a shop selling keepsakes,
for artefacts in the dedicated area
including local products.
THE FOUR-IN-ONE PASS You can access the four main heritage sites – Hegra, AlUla Old Town, Dadan and Jabal Ikmah – with the AlUla Access Pass. For entry from 1 Jan 2021. SAR 375 for adults and SAR 187 for children (aged 5-12). 187 for adults and SAR 93 for children. Those aged 4 and under go free. (Based upon single entry. Valid for 5 days from first entry).
What to do 35
• Parking is available at both sites
shops and five town squares, it was
• Access to the site is via drop off
free of charge, but spaces are
continuously inhabited from the 12th
only, with parking available nearby.
limited. We advise you to use the
through to the 20th century CE.
shuttle services between the sites. Approximately 1 hour. Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry is the 3-4pm slot). Daily from 8am to noon and 4pm-6pm. Day tour tickets (single entry) are SAR 60 for adults and SAR 30 for children (aged 5-12) from 31 Oct 2020 to 31 Dec 2020. From 2021: SAR 120 and SAR 60 for children.
Investigate this important heritage site by watching the live
Allow approximately 3-4 hours to explore. Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry
performances that bring its history to
is the 3-4.30pm slot). The night
life. You’ll be welcomed by a rawi who
experience will be from 8pm-11 pm.
will take you on a journey through the town. Stop at Tantora Plaza, where the townspeople used the sundial to
tell the time and track the seasons. Scale AlUla Castle for panoramic views of AlUla and continue on to the busy bazaar, where actors recreate
Daily from 8am to noon, 4pm-6pm and 7pm-11pm. SAR 67 and SAR 33 for children (aged 5-12) from 15 Dec 2020 to 31 Dec 2020. From 2021:
adults and SAR 67 for children. SAR 67 for adults and SAR 33
scenes from the town’s heyday, such
for children. SAR 10 for AlUla
as traders arriving in caravans to
residents all year round. Those
30 for children. SAR 10 for AlUla
sell their wares, and children playing
aged 4 and under go free.
residents all year round. Those
traditional games in the streets. Head
aged 4 and under go free.
to the Handicrafts Pavilion to watch
artisans making crafts with palm
THE HERITAGE SITES
fronds, and browse the shops for
Visitor transfers operate
keepsakes such as spices and dates.
regularly between the four
SAR 60 for adults and SAR
ALULA OLD TOWN Open to visitors for the very first
main heritage sites: Hegra,
time from 22 December 2020, AlUla Old Town is where pilgrims,
Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and
travellers and permanent settlers
• A rawi can accompany you on a
AlUla Old Town. In addition,
congregated through the ages. Once
walking tour, although access is
there are transport solutions
home to almost 900 houses, 400
limited until end of March 2021.
available for disabled people.
An evening show at Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza
EVENING EXPERIENCES Best enjoyed under a blanket of stars, these curated experiences are available on selected dates during the winter season… Illuminating the tombs at Jabal AlKhuraymat The three-dimensional show at Jabal AlKhuraymat, in Hegra, draws upon
The cycling trail Follow the pack leader on a leisurely bicycle ride through the farms, where an abundance of date palms, citrus trees and herbs grow. Soak up the view of the surrounding mountains as the scent of Jaffa orange fills the air. Each group consists of up to 20 riders. 1 hour (guided). SAR 120 per person (SAR 69 for AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under.
video and sound effects to offer a quick history lesson on how the Nabataeans built their tombs. The show, projected onto three tomb façades, illustrates how the tombs were carved and who owned them. 5-6 minutes. Included in the entry price to Hegra. For further details of show times and prices, please visit experiencealula.com.
HIT THE TRAILS Set off with an adventure guide to explore these newly opened hiking trails. They are available five days a week (see AlUla Old Town
experiencealula.com for details), from 8am to 5pm, until end of March 2021.
Fatbiking in the desert
What to do 37
The Horse Trail
‘Visit the monoliths at sunrise or sunset for a magical experience'
Saddle up for this family-friendly guided trek through the stunning AlUla desert landscapes and lush oasis. Up to 20 people can join this trail at a time. 1-2 hours (guided). SAR 179 per person (SAR 90 for AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under. The Adventure Trail
Sahary Resort, it’ll take just six minutes
Lace up your hiking shoes and hit
The trails are being phased in from
to reach Elephant Rock (Jabal Al-Fil).
the mountains for a half-day journey
November/December 2020, with
While you're there, hike up to Jar
led by an expert guide through the
additional trails available at a variety of
Rock (it’s opposite Elephant Rock) for
AlMadakheel landscapes, passing rock
locations across AlUla by the end
magnificent views of the valley through
art and unique flora and fauna. The trail
of 2020. Please visit experiencealula.com
the jar-shaped opening of the mountain.
accommodates up to 20 people.
for updates. Group sizes may be affected
Face Rock is inside Hegra, next to Jabal
while Covid-19 safety measures are
AlAhmar, while Ashar is home to Finger
Rock and Mushroom Rock, which is
3-4 hours (medium difficulty, guided). SAR 199 per person (SAR 99 for AlUla residents) from 30 Oct 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under.
hidden inside a canyon. Venture further afield to see more
The famous rock formations dotted
distinctive rock formations, such as
The Oasis Trail
around AlUla await your arrival. There’s
Dancing Rocks in the Raggasat Valley
Weave your way self-guided through the
no need for any special arrangements
(45 minutes’ drive), Al Gharameel (60
bountiful AlUla Oasis, at your own pace.
aside from hailing a taxi or hiring a driver
minutes) and The Arch (90 minutes)
to take you there, but we recommend
– see the map on page 11. You’ll need
that you time your visits around sunrise
to go off-road to get to these so we
residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Those
and sunset for a magical experience.
recommend hiring an experienced driver
aged 4 and under go free.
If you set off from either Shaden or
with a four-wheel drive.
2 hours (self-guided). SAR 50 per person (SAR 19 for AlUla
A PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM “Beauty is, of course, a personal subjective perception. But as far as I am concerned, this location is one of the most visually striking desert regions I have ever seen,” says Robert Polidori, photographer for AlUla, a luxury immersive book of photography and illustrations published by Assouline (assouline.com). “It is almost as if a god decided one day to paint and sculpt a landscape.”
What to do 39
Abdulaziz Albalawi. Al Gharameel
Gazelles are native to AlUla
SEE THE SUMMER FARM AlWadi Farm offers a fantastic insight
into the agricultural evolution of AlUla.
Successive civilisations continued to
“The region’s famous
improve on the ways that the crops
barni dates, which
were grown, with methods getting
more sophisticated through the ages.
75 percent of the date
From the original native species, such as
fruit harvest each year,
acacia trees and shrubs, to the three-
are a must-try,” says
storey gardens comprising of date
Nayef Alharbi, a local
palms, citrus trees and herbs, there is a rich farming legacy to unravel. Get back to nature by picking fruit, planting seeds and feeding the animals in the stables. It’s easy to work up an appetite here,
Locally harvested dates
Approximately 1-2 hours. Opening in December 2020. From
which is why you’ll be pleased to know
10am-5pm on Sunday, Wednesday
that there is an on-site café serving
and Thursday and from 10am-8pm at
refreshing juices and light nibbles.
weekends (Friday and Saturday). Open
There’s also a great little shop selling
from December to March only.
fresh farm produce. Car parking
SAR 50 per person (SAR 19 for AlUla
is available, as well as bus and
residents) from 15 Dec 2020. Free for
those aged 12 and under.
date farmer. “You should
also sample the plump
AlUla is a fantastic place for stargazing. At Al Gharameel, you
but firm Mabroom date,
can enjoy a traditional Bedouin set-up, with an expert guide
which is extra sticky
on hand to tell you about the stars and constellations, and
with rich notes of toffee.
how they relate to AlUla’s culture and history.
Machrook dates will
Approximately 4-5 hours
satisfy the sweetest
From 8pm to 2am.
tooth with its sugary aftertaste. All varieties
SAR 220 per person (aged 5 and over) from 30 Oct 2020. Those aged 4 and under go free.
are highly nutritious.”
What to do 41
This 4km trail is akin to the central park of AlUla. It connects key heritage sites of AlUla Old Town, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, the summer farms, villages and the
Nadim Karam, On Parade, installation view at Desert X AlUla
PHOTO LANCE GERBER, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND DESERT X ALULA
WADI OF HOSPITALITY
‘View the three permanent artworks on display in the Ashar Valley'
Dune buggying adventures
Nabataean settlements of Hegra, all wrapped up in one nature-filled journey. There’s a café at the start, as well as a place to hire a golf buggy, bicycle or
horse to get from one end to the other.
Art enthusiasts can brush up on
You can stop for a cup of fresh mint
their knowledge by viewing the three
tea in the café at the mint farm along
permanent artworks on display in
the way. There’s a lookout point and a
the Ashar Valley, near Habitas AlUla.
souvenir shop to browse, at the halfway
They were acquired from the Desert
X AlUla site-specific, contemporary art exhibition, which took place from
Not far from here lies another trail, the Orange Path. This fragrant road lined
31 January to 7 March 2020. The
with orange and citrus trees is a treat
works are: On Parade by Nadim
for the senses. The fruits of the grove
Karam; One Two Three Swing! by
can be enjoyed in lots of different ways,
Superflex and Falling Stones Garden
from the citrus market to the restaurant,
by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim.
cooking and art. Speaking of which,
Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrored
there’s also a fluorescent orange
Room – Brilliance of the Souls’
monolith art piece, Specter by Sterling
installation at Maraya. Featuring
Ruby, to gaze at.
spheres of multicoloured lights suspended at different heights,
The vibrant arts and crafts hub, the Al Jadidah District, is just a stone’s
you'll feel as if you are surrounded
throw away. There, you can take part
by stars, planets and galaxies.
in workshops and classes at AlUla Girls’ School, catch a film at the rooftop
cinema, dine in the restaurant, and
AlUla has a packed year-round
view the public art on display at the art
calendar of events. In the past, the
destination has hosted the culture festival Winter at Tantora; AlUla Hot
the 4km trail, on average, with extra
Air Balloon Festival; AlUla Desert
time to stop at the attractions along
Polo; the Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques Endurance Cup; The Hegra
Open to the public around the clock from November 2020. Services and
attractions will be phased in from
Embark on a high-octane, off-road
buggy drive across the dunes.
The zip line
1 hour. From 10am-5pm, five days a week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 100 per person (SAR 60 for
One for thrill seekers, test your nerve by
AlUla residents) from 30 Oct 2020. Not
whizzing through the air on the zip line
suitable for those aged 12 and under.
at Harrat Mountain.
‘Embark on a highoctane, off-road buggy drive across the dunes' From 10am-8pm, five days a week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 75 per person (SAR 30 for
Conference of Nobel Laureates; the Desert X AlUla site-responsive art exhibition; and many more. Visit experiencealula.com for the most up-to date information on upcoming events.
FESTIVALS The culture festival, AlUla Season, normally runs from January to March, bringing a fantastic line-up
AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not
of events, performances and art
Open from 10am-5pm, five days a
Visit Adventure Canyon's new purpose
suitable for those aged 12 and under.
installations to the destination.
week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 120 per person from 3 Dec 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under. 42 experiencealula.com
built Bike Park. This low impact, high
Further to this, the event venue
energy adventure has bump and pump
Adventure experiences are being phased
Maraya is active throughout the
dirt tracks and is fun for all the family.
in from November 2020. Please visit
year, hosting music events, global
experiencealula.com for updates.
conferences and exhibitions.
Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Falling Stones Garden, installation, view at Desert X AlUla
PHOTO BY LANCE GERBER, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LAWRIE SHABIBI AND DESERT X ALULA
It takes approximately 1 hour to walk
PHOTO LANCE GERBER, COURTESY THE ARTIST AND DESERT X ALULA
Another highlight is Japanese artist
pop-up perfumery and pavilion for
Entry is free.
Superflex, One Two Three Swing! Installation, view at Desert X AlUla
What to do 43
ROUTES WE RATE Make sure your days are packed full of wonder thanks to our suggested itineraries that combine the very best experiences
‘Explore AlUla Old Town’s maze of 900 tiny houses and shops that date to the beginning of the Islamic Period’ settlement of the Nabataeans after Petra, this world wonder has over 100 well-preserved tombs, 94 of which have elaborate carved facades. Plus, there are a number of interactive experiences
AlUla Old Town
Peel back the layers of history that have shaped AlUla
MORNING Start your journey through time at Dadan, the ancient kingdom of the Lihyanite and Dadanite civilisations, which was developed in the 9th century BCE. An active archaeological site, you can learn about the treasures
and Lihyanite Kingdoms of the 1st millennium BCE.
Hegra to life. Make your final stop AlUla Old Town, which is less than a 30-minute drive away. Explore its maze of 900
tiny houses and shops that date to
Stop for a bite to eat at Winter Park.
the beginning of the Islamic Period.
Choose a hearty snack from one of the
Wander the shaded streets and see
food trucks and refuel while soaking up
how communities once lived. In the
the picturesque scenery.
evening, you can sit down to dinner in one of the two restaurants in AlUla
Old Town*. Each serves local cuisine,
Set off for UNESCO World Heritage
with entertainment and music for
Site Hegra. The second largest
an authentic ambience.
uncovered from excavations and scour the rock faces for the famous
Duration: Approximately 6 hours, plus time for lunch and dinner.
Lion Tombs (tombs marked by lion
Best for: All travellers – especially history and culture buffs.
sculptures, which indicate the resting
Good to know: Breakfast, coffee, snacks and gifts are available to buy at
place of elite members of society).
cafés and shops along the way. Entry to Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, Hegra and
Next, take the 10-minute drive to
AlUla Old Town is included in the AlUla Access Pass. You’ll need to make
Jabal Ikmah. Situated in a stunning
a reservation if you would like to dine at any of the restaurants in AlUla
desert canyon, this ‘open-air library’ has
an impressive collection of inscriptions, 44 experiencealula.com
*Restaurants will be coming soon
IMMERSED IN HERITAGE
to take part in that bring the story of mostly dating to the Dadanite
Dune buggying adventure
‘Feel a rush of adrenaline by taking part in the adventure activities’
THRILLS AND SPILLS
Early risers can seize the day by embarking on this thrill-a-minute escapade MORNING Lace up your sturdiest walking shoes
Enjoy an action-packed afternoon
and set off along the Madakhil Hiking
whooshing along the zip-line at
Trail. This picturesque trail, suitable for
Harrat Uwayrid, racing dune
intermediate hikers, takes you on an
buggies, and riding a fatbike
epic tour of the desert around narrow
through the desert.
canyons, gorges and cliffs. Once you’ve completed your hike,
Soften the pace by making the 45-minute journey to Shaden, where
make the 25-minute transfer to
you can reflect on the day’s activities
Winter Park for a quick pick-me-up in
at Elephant Rock. Saddle up for a
the form of a cup of hot coffee from
horseback ride, or jump into a Jeep
the food trucks. Energy levels restored,
for a speedy tour of the landscape.
embark on the 25-minute drive to
You’ll admire the raw beauty of this
distinctive monolith that has been naturally carved from weathering.
At sunset you’ll be rewarded by the
Feel a rush of adrenaline when taking
sight of glowing rays bursting through
part in the adventure activities.
the elephant’s ‘trunk’.
Duration: A full day of fun (approximately 8 hours), with some extra time to see the sunset. How much: Entry to the Madakhil Hiking Trail costs SAR 199 including a guide and refreshments. Adventure activities start from SAR 75 per person (SAR 30 for AlUla residents). Best for: This itinerary has plenty to keep young and energetic souls on their toes. If you like to venture off the beaten path, then this one’s for you. Good to know: You’re in very safe hands – the Madakhil Hiking Trail is designed and operated by Husaak Adventures, which has a team of experienced guides to lead you on your way.
‘Head out early to Elephant Rock to see the sun rise over this muchloved monolith’
Leave the electronics back at the hotel and refresh body and mind with this route that will help you get back in touch with nature MORNING
Ask your hotel to pack you up a
Get ready to explore the rocky
breakfast and head out early to
outcrops of the Ashar Valley,
Elephant Rock to see the sun rise over
which is a haven for rock art.
this much-loved monolith.
A local expert can accompany you
With that once-in-a-lifetime
on a walking tour, deciphering the
experience firmly ticked off your
inscriptions and petroglyphs as
wish list, you can take the 15-minute
transfer to AlUla Oasis. Here, you can explore at your own pace by venturing
along the self-guided 4km-long Wadi
Following a delicious dinner at
of Hospitality trail. Pause to browse
Shaden Resort, you can gaze up
the stalls selling souvenirs and to sip a
at the beauty of the night sky
cup of fresh mint tea at the café.
at Al Gharameel. Dark and mysterious, it is the perfect
place for a spot of stargazing.
Stop for lunch at Barzan restaurant
With powerful telescopes,
or Almakher café, near AlUla Old
blankets and hot chocolate
Town, where you can dine alfresco in
available, it’s sure to be an
the shade of palm trees.
evening to remember.
Duration: Approximately 6 hours plus time for lunch. Best for: This itinerary is ideal for all ages. Keen photographers will find plenty to spark their creative juices while those seeking a chilled and rejuvenating experience are sure to be impressed. Good to know: You can hire a golf buggy, bicycle or horse to take you along the Wadi of Hospitality. Take around SAR 60 per person for lunch.
‘It’s like stepping into a painting, as the path you follow is characterised by generous washes of green and brown plant life’
CHASE THE OASIS
Follow in the footsteps of Bedouins by traversing this historic walking route Transport yourself to a bygone era by
Located within a field of fresh mint,
taking on this 3km trail, which connects
follow your nose to the appropriately
two ancient civilisations separated by
named café Tdail Mint, where you can
thousands of years: Dadan and AlUla
enjoy a restorative hot drink. Suitably
Old Town. Embarking on the journey
refreshed, you can continue along
is like stepping into a painting, as the
the trail until you reach AlUla Old
path you follow is characterised by
Town. The route is open daily from
generous washes of greens and browns
8am to 9pm.
thanks to the lush plant life that surrounds it. Carry on until you reach the midpoint – the beautiful AlUla Oasis.
MORE ROUTES TO TRY You can view our full list of suggested itineraries at experiencealula.com
Duration: Approximately 2 hours. Best for: Curious travellers who prefer to explore at their own pace. Good to know: Seeking the perfect memento? Two memorable scenes along the trail have been recreated by a local artist and reproduced as prints that are available to buy in the gift shop at the end of the trail.
Where to stay
DARE TO DREAM Escape to a luxury desert resort or camp out in a trendy Airstream trailer – AlUla’s accommodation options rock SHADEN RESORT Nestled amid striking rock formations, this traditional desert retreat will win you over with its warm Arabian hospitality and modern touches. Stay: There’s a collection of 121 Deluxe Rooms and Villas here, all of which have a private terrace or balcony. If you like to make a splash, choose one with a private pool. Large families should opt for the Royal Suite, which has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and ample space in which to unwind. Dine: There are four places to eat and drink, including seafood restaurant Fish Market and Holi, which specialises in Indian delights. Play: Take a dip in the swimming pool or head to the health club complex, which has a gym, sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. You can also join an aerobics class, book a pampering massage, or catch a movie at the cinema, which is open from 8pm to midnight. Book it: +966 50 604 3344, shaden-resort.com
‘This traditional desert retreat will win you over with its warm Arabian hospitality’ 52 experiencealula.com
Where to stay 53
‘This desert camp offers all the creature comforts you need for a memorable stay’
SAHARY ALULA RESORT This desert camp is characterised by its charming tent-style accommodation that places you in the lap of nature, albeit with all the creature comforts you need for a memorable stay. Stay: There are 80 spacious rooms and suites. Each is elegantly decorated and comes with its own private bathroom and terrace. Dine: Sahary Restaurant serves international cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – as does Desert Restaurant, which is open from December 2020. Room service is also available. Play: You can cool off in the swimming pool. There’s also a compact gym. Book it: +966 55 105 3222, saharyresort.com 54 experiencealula.com
Where to stay 55
‘These retro-chic trailers are just as good as they look’
AIRSTREAM RV RESORTS Immerse yourself in the great outdoors by staying in one of these state-of-the-art Airstream RVs. There are 50 in total, split between two locations: Ashar and Shaden. Stay: These retro-chic trailers are just as good as they look. Each has a bathroom, a mini-kitchen, and a covered patio area that’s cosy yet cool. Dine: It’s easy to rise and shine here, as you’ll get a continental breakfast delivered direct to your door each morning. There are also outdoor barbecue areas with seating. Play: Gather around the community firepit and settle in for the evening as you admire the starry night sky. Book it: Shaden RV Park is open from the end of October 2020. Ashar RV Park is open from January 2021. Visit experiencealula.com for the latest details and booking information. 56 experiencealula.com
Where to stay 57
HABITAS ALULA Open from December 2020, this community-focused, eco-friendly resort located in the desert canyons of the Ashar Valley will immerse you in the environment, heritage and people of the AlUla region, through a variety of culturally engaging, authentic experiences. The resort has been designed to blend with the landscape. It was manufactured at Habitas’ facilities in Mexico using sustainable materials, and delivered and assembled on-site in order to minimise its impact on the environment. Stay: There are 100 luxury rooms in total – 50 are open from December 2020 and the remainder will be unveiled in March 2021. You can choose from a Desert Suite (47sqm) or a larger Royal Suite (73sqm), which has a lounge area with a sofa that converts into a bed, as well as a covered terrace and large walkthrough closet. Dine: The Middle Eastern restaurant draws upon farm-to-table practices, bringing locally sourced ingredients to the fore. Play: You can get an authentic feel for the local way of life thanks to the community projects that are being rolled out in phases. These include sourcing handicrafts in collaboration with AlUla Girls’ School (a hub for nurturing local artisans), and cooking classes led by local chefs. In addition, you can unwind at the pool deck and wellness centre. Book it: habitasalula.com (active from November 2020).
Where to stay 59
‘This luxury camp in Ashar is a firm favourite’
ASHAR VALLEY RESORT Located at the southern end of the Ashar Valley, this luxury camp is a firm favourite. Stay: There are 44 accommodations to choose from, including luxurious three-bedroomed villas. Dine: Tuck into a buffet breakfast at Alban restaurant, which seats 40. There’s also a restaurant serving Middle Eastern and Mediterranean delights. Book it: Open for guests from 1 January 2021. Bookings are being accepted from October 2020 via experiencealula.com and from 1 January 2021 at all.accor.com. Please note that the resort will be closed for refurbishment from March to August 2021. 60 experiencealula.com
Where to stay 61
A total of 24 aspiring chefs from AlUla have been trained at the prestigious French culinary school, FERRANDI Paris
Where to eat
GREAT TASTE If all that exploring has given you an appetite, these vibrant eateries are just the ticket
SHADEN RESORT Boost your energy reserves by stopping for a casual meal at Shaden Restaurant. You can expect quality food, friendly service and affordable prices. The chefs cook up a storm in the kitchen, preparing everything from grilled meats to seafood, pasta dishes and traditional staples. Fish Market specialises in seafood with a Middle Eastern twist, with the chefs paying close attention to the
presentation of the plate. Lively Indian restaurant Holi prides itself on serving authentic dishes, such as butter chicken and lamb biryani, alongside refreshing drinks like mango lassi, while Outback Steakhouse serves sizzling steaks and Mexican favourites to satisfy your cravings. Opening hours: From 8am to 10/11pm in the winter season (call to check before you go). Shaden Restaurant is open all year round. Contact: +966 50 604 3344,
This charming cafĂŠ, which accommodates up to 150, has an air
of authenticity due to it being staffed
Taste a selection of international
solely by locals. Located in the heart
favourites at Sahary Restaurant at
of AlUla Oasis, near AlUla Old Town,
Sahary AlUla Resort, which is open
the cafĂŠ is ideal for an artisan coffee
for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
sipped in the garden to the sounds
Opening hours: From 8am to 10pm.
of birds chirping in the date palms.
Contact: +966 55 105 3222,
Opt for the classic combination
of Arabic coffee and dates, or try
Where to eat 63
something a bit different, such as
the iced pistachio flavoured coffee. Sandwiches, cold drinks and a selection of cakes are also available. At weekends, you can dine to live oud music. Opening hours: From 9am to 11pm in the winter and until 2am in the summer. Contact: +966 54688856. BARZAN Offering a mouthwatering mixture of Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and Syrian cuisine, this 200-seat eatery, located a stone’s throw from Dadan, will win you over with its traditional dishes. Choose from grilled meats, seafood, pasta and more. There’s also a selection of hot drinks and desserts. Opening hours: From 8am to 11pm. Contact: +966 541713076. HERITAGE GARDEN RESTAURANT Located in the city centre, this atmospheric restaurant serves a variety of traditional foods. Take a seat in one of the private rooms, or settle down on the carpet in the traditional style majlis – the latter is a great choice for large groups. The restaurant is next to a pretty courtyard, which has a small playground for kids. At weekends during the winter season, the courtyard is lined by stalls selling locally made crafts, jewellery and traditional clothes. There’s also a buzzing café nearby, Ghasn Al Ban,
where baristas serve gourmet coffees and desserts in an airy and modern
There’s also going to be a Middle
different Michelin-star chef every
2. At Al Jadidah, The Girls’ School
setting. Take the chance to enjoy your
Eastern restaurant, which draws
weekend during the 2019-2020
food truck is a novel addition to the
order alfresco on the rooftop.
upon farm-to-table practices at
Winter at Tantora culture festival.
food truck scene. A converted old
Opening hours: Daily from noon
Habitas AlUla, which opens in
You can find out about future pop-
school bus, it is run by members of
December 2020. Desert Restaurant
ups at experiencealula.com or via
the local community, each of whom
at Sahary AlUla Resort is also set to
makes a mean shawarma. For a quick
More on the menu…
open then. To find out more and to
AlUla’s four main heritages sites will
stay up-to-date about all the new
ice cream or opt for a healthy fresh
offer a great range of restaurants
openings, please visit
For times when you want to grab a
juice. Opening in December 2020.
and cafés. The first to open will be
quick bite on the move, make tracks
3. For a tasty burger, head to Orange
to the food trucks that are dotted
Road to grab a loaded patty from
a fine dining restaurant at Hegra
refresher, you can treat yourself to an
Fort. This will swiftly be followed
the Airstream food truck. Enjoy
by a coffee shop overlooking Jabal
AlUla regularly welcomes pop-up
1. Winter Park, which is around five
it surrounded by the buzz of the
AlBanat and a further restaurant and
restaurants, meaning there’s always
minutes’ drive from Elephant Rock,
Orange Road market, which sells
café within the area. In addition, you
a coveted new dining experience to
has outdoor seating for up to
citrus fruits from the local farms
can look forward to two restaurants
look forward to. A recent example
150 people and is open from
during the winter. Opening in
and two cafés in AlUla Old Town.
is Awna restaurant, which hosted a
9am to midnight.
Where to eat 65
Maraya dining hall
FRUITS OF THE LAND The plentiful supply of water from the oasis has allowed plants and crops
Awna restaurant at night
to flourish in AlUla, producing ample harvests of barley, wheat, oat, figs, olives, citrus fruits, herbs and, of course, dates. Numerous varieties of the date fruit are grown here, the most famous of which is the sweet and sticky, yet highly nourishing barni date. Citrus fruits are also bountiful â€“ there are 29 varieties in total. We recommend you try the juicy oranges, red grapefruits, sweet lemons and kumquats (referred to locally as maliki). At AlWadi Farm, near Winter Park, you can take a tour with a local farmer and pick your own fruits. Plus, thereâ€™s an on-site restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The farm is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 8pm from September to May, and from 5pm to 10pm from June to August. For bookings go through: mytable.sa
Fresh fruits and vegetables at the summer farm
Where to eat 67
These images: Sharaan Nature Resort by Jean Nouvel
ON THE HORIZON There are a number of mindful developments in the pipeline that will make you want to plan a return visit to AlUla. Here’s some insider intelligence…
AMAN RESORTS If you’re already a fan of Aman Resorts you’ll be pleased to know that the brand is making its Middle East debut in AlUla. The move will bring three luxury resorts to the area. First up is a spa concept resort featuring 30 luxury tents, which is being developed within a secluded and tranquil mountain valley close to many of AlUla’s main cultural and heritage areas. If a room with a view is your priority, you’ll gravitate towards the second resort, which promises a coveted address surrounded by awe-inspiring
natural beauty. The third resort will have a desert ranch look and feel, with panoramic landscape vistas. Expect distinctive yet considered designs, but be prepared to wait: these resorts will welcome their first guests in 2023.
SHARAAN NATURE RESORT BY JEAN NOUVEL Deep in a valley of the Sharaan Nature Reserve, an exciting new resort by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel is taking shape. While detailed plans for this newcomer are still under wraps, we do know that it’ll place you deep inside the tranquil reserve. Furthermore, it will be a lesson in how modern architecture sustainable development. As Nouvel says: “AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s absolutely vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on 68 experiencealula.com
Images: © Ateliers Jean Nouvel
can coexist with nature and support
Future developments 69
Maraya concert and entertainment venue
its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.â€? The resort will offer suites and villas, a number of restaurants and a summit centre. There will also be a collection of private villas for sale.
ASHAR RESORT BY BANYAN TREE The existing Ashar Valley Resort will
Future developments Top and above : Ashar Resort by Banyan Tree
be expanded to add 47 new high-end villas into the fold. Operated by Accor,
valleys and open desert areas with
under the Banyan Tree brand, the
scattered rocky outcrops. Over time,
luxury resort will be transformed into
the flora has been nibbled away
a hospitality haven with a total of 82
by domestic livestock but it is now
impressive villas, as well as a lavish
being nurtured back to its former
spa and several gourmet restaurants.
glory. Once this has been achieved, there is a huge opportunity to
SHARAAN NATURE RESERVE
re-introduce a number of native
Conservation is key in AlUla, and the
flora and fauna species, including
area has an important role to play
indigenous acacia trees, the Nubian
in Saudi Arabiaâ€™s vision to preserve
ibex, red-necked ostrich and Idmi
its natural assets. As such, a team of
gazelles, as well as larger predators
environmental conservation experts
such as the Arabian leopard.
is working hard to re-establish the
After a successful pilot
rich variety of native plants and
reintroduction in 2019, further
wildlife that once flourished here.
animal releases are planned for
The goal is being realised through
2020 and 2021, and the animals
the Sharaan Nature Reserve project,
will be closely monitored. The
which aims to set a standard in
Nature Reserve is not yet open to
the region for re-balancing the
the public, but once the planning is
fragile desert ecosystem.
completed, a specially trained team
It is located in the canyon area of
of rangers, including members
Sharaan, where red-rock canyons
of the local community, will
meet steep-sided ravines, wide
be its guardians.
Epic events AlUla has already earned a reputation as an emerging destination for events, but this is just the beginning. Concert venue Maraya is pegged to become the beating heart of the events scene in the future. Its busy yearround calendar of performances will be enhanced by seasonal festivals, pop-up art installations, and more. Keep up to date with the announcements at experiencealula.com. Future developments 71
TO ALULA AND BEYOND Whether it’s city, desert or sea you’re after, these nearby destinations are the perfect add-ons to your stay in AlUla
KHAYBAR AlUla’s neighbouring county Khaybar is also blessed with imprints of past civilisations. The area stretches 656 km² and is home to key archaeological sites, such as old town forts, keyhole Stone Age burial sites and historical oases. It also has a captivating volcanic landscape
‘Khaybar is blessed with imprints of past civilisations and a captivating volcanic landscape’
home to the White and Black
Caribbean a run for its money. Go island hopping, tour the nearby mango farms and pencil in enough time to make the hour-long inland drive to Harrat Lunayyir, a black lava field peppered with craters and cones. How to get there: Approximately 310km from AlUla (roughly a 3-hour 40-minute drive).
Volcano and its lava fields known as ‘haraat’. The expansive underground
sun at Yam Beach, or take a swan
NEOM – ONE TO WATCH
network of lava caves carry basalt
paddleboat out with the kids at the
Emerging destination Neom is
lava for hundreds of miles. It’s an
Marina Canal. There are watersports
a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s
active volcano, although the most
to suit all skill levels at Lagoona
Vision 2030. The forward-thinking
recent recorded eruption took place
Adventure, mini golf at Juman Park
mega-city, which is 35 times the
between 600-700 CE.
and a challenging 700-metre-long
size of Singapore, is situated in the
karting track to whizz your way
northwest of the Kingdom, on the
the historical sites, with plans in
around. Culture seekers can take a
Red Sea, near to the borders of
place to make it easier to access and
walking tour of the Art District, which
both Egypt and Jordan. Its unique
travel between the main attractions.
has a fantastic showcase of graffiti,
geographical location affords Neom
Developments in the area will give
caricatures and more by local artists.
a temperate climate that’s roughly
rise to lots of exciting ways to
How to get there: K AEC is
10°C cooler, on average, than the
discover Khaybar, including aerial
approximately 575km from AlUla
rest of the GCC. It is being built from
tours. Check experiencealula.com for
(just over a 6-hour drive).
the ground up to include towns
Currently, the focus is on preserving
and cities, ports and enterprise
How to get there: Approximately
zones, research centres, sports and
220km (just over a 2-hour drive)
This small coastal town is often
entertainment venues, as well as top
referred to as ‘the Maldives of Saudi
tourist attractions. Once completed,
Arabia’. Comprising 104 little islands,
it’s expected to attract more than a
THE RED SEA
it is a top spot for scuba diving and
million people from around the world
King Abdullah Economic City
snorkelling. You’ll find fringing reefs,
to live and work there.
Discover Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea
such as Jabal Hassan, just off the
How to get there: Approximately
delights at King Abdullah Economic
sandy beaches, and you may even
415km from AlUla (roughly a 4-hour
City (K AEC). This modern hub is a
spot Hawksbill turtles, dolphins and
hive of activity with luxury hotels,
dugong sea cows. The warm waters
spas, glamorous marinas and a
are actually home to more than
wide range of fun activities on offer.
1,200 fish species and 300 species
You can admire traditional Hijazi
Spend a relaxing day soaking up the
of hard coral – enough to give the
architecture in AlWajh. The city
Beyond AlUla 73
Caption The White and Black Volcano, Khaybar
is flanked by unspoilt beaches to the north and south, and there are several historical monuments to discover. Also on your itinerary should be Al-Zareb Castle in the mountains, which was once a resting place for pilgrims. How to get there: Approximately 245km from AlUa (around a 2½-hour drive). JEDDAH This historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014, is a vibrant mixture of traditional architecture, atmospheric souks, delicious cuisines
and high-end resorts dotted along the picturesque coastline. you to the most popular stop-offs,
head to Ras Alsheikh Hamid to see the
day in the historic district of Al-
as well as some secluded spots.
famous Catalina seaplane wreckage
Balad. The cobblestone streets are
Either set off on a bespoke itinerary
that was abandoned on the beach
lined with traditional houses offering
on a yacht, or hop aboard a luxury
a fantastic display of the Hijazi
cruise ship. Red Sea Spirit offers two
architecture of the old city – think
cruise itineraries. The first spans
beaches, and you can count on the
bay windows overlaid with intricate
three nights (four days), departing
locals to teach you the steps to the
wooden latticework and ornate
from King Abdullah Port in K AEC,
traditional Sesameya dance.
spending a day in both Yanbu and
How to get there: Approximately
Ras Abyadh, followed by a day at
360km from AlUla (roughly a
along Gabel Street Souk, which is
sea, before returning to K AEC on
brimming with boutiques selling
the fourth day. The second itinerary,
handicrafts, spices, fabrics and
a four-night trip (five days) also
departing from King Abdullah Port,
Saudi Arabia’s second holiest city,
takes you to Neom, Magna, Yanbu,
Medina, is an important Islamic
attractions, too. Jeddah Tower,
Ras Abyadh and back to K AEC
pilgrimage site, home to the striking
what will be the world’s tallest tower,
on the fifth day. To find out more,
green-domed Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
is being built there. Meanwhile,
contact Red Sea Spirit on 800 897
(The Prophet’s Mosque). It is also the
the waterfront district of Jeddah
1419 or redseaspirit.com.
site of Masjid Quba, the first mosque
Architecture fans will have a field
You can shop for keepsakes
Jeddah has plenty of modern
Tabuk is also known for its beautiful
Atallah Happy Land Park, an
Qiblatayn, where Muhammad (PBUH),
amusement park with various
Tabuk is the capital city of the
the last Islamic prophet, received
rides and games, as well as Fakieh
Tabuk Region in northwestern Saudi
the command to change the Qibla
Aquarium. After the sun has set,
Arabia and the largest city in the
(direction of prayer) to Makkah.
head to the 312m-high King Fahd’s
north of the Kingdom. Situated
Fountain (the world’s largest) to see
close to the border with Jordan, it is
the historic Seven Mosques (Sab’u
its burst of water bathed in colourful
known as the northern gateway to
Masajid), and Mount Uhud (north of
the Arabian Peninsula. It’s sure to
Medina) where the Battle of Uhud took
How to get there: Approximately
deliver a fantastic introduction, with
place. There are lots of hotels in the
680km (roughly a 7½-hour drive)
its roster of important monuments
city centre. Bear in mind that Nabawi
from AlUla. Or, you could fly into King
and attractions to discover, many of
Square, where Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi is
Abdulaziz International Airport (JED).
which speak to the rich history of
located, is only open to Muslims.
How to get there: Approximately
Other notable landmarks include
Traverse the sandy dunes in a four-
330km from AlUla (roughly a 3-hour
Want to stretch your sea legs? You
wheel drive at the Al-Zeeta Mountains,
40-minute drive). Or, you can fly into
could roll your Red Sea adventures
take a trip to the town of Magna to visit
Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz
into one amazing cruise that will take
the 12 Springs of Prophet Moses, and
International Airport (MED).
Hijazi architecture in Jeddah
in the history of Islam, and Masjid al-
Corniche calls. Here, you’ll find
RED SEA CRUISES
Beyond Beyond AlUla 75
NEED TO KNOW Handy information, at your fingertips VISITOR INFORMATION To find the latest information and advice use the Visitor Centres at Winter Park, Dadan/ Jabal Ikmah and Hegra. Information desks are also located at Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport in AlUla, as well as at Shaden Resort, and Sahary AlUla Resort.
ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is developing AlUla into a
local customs and traditions:
to carry some small change at all
world-class tourist destination.
• Dress modestly when in public. As
times. There are ATMs in AlUla,
a rule of thumb, you should avoid
but there is no currency exchange.
For international callers:
tight-fitting clothes and any items
You can change your money at
+966 11 828 6900
bearing images or words that may
Riyadh or Jeddah airports.
offend. Women should cover their
shoulders and knees – wearing a
head cover or abaya is optional.
It’s a wise idea to purchase travel
• Steer clear of using profane
insurance for your trip that will
language or gestures.
cover you for any travel
Arabic is the Kingdom’s official
• Couples do not need to
related issues, such as loss of
language, but English is widely
provide proof of marriage in
belongings, and in the event
spoken. It’s polite to master a
order to share a hotel room.
of a medical emergency.
few friendly greetings, such as
• Public displays of affection
The nearest hospital is Prince
“marhaba” (“hello”) and “salaam
are best avoided.
Abdulmohsen Hospital in AlUla
alaikum” (“peace be upon you”).
• It is against the law to buy, sell or
(about 45 minutes from Hegra).
consume alcohol in Saudi Arabia.
There are also a number of well-
• Women aged 18 and over can travel
stocked pharmacies in AlUla City.
The weekend falls on
independently (including driving
and booking hotel rooms) without
ELECTRONICS AND WI-FI
the need for male companions.
In Saudi Arabia the power
plugs and sockets are type
Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country
G – three rectangular pins in a
that follows Islamic law. As a
The local currency is the Saudi Riyal
triangular pattern (the same
visitor, you should be mindful of
(SAR). Some shops in town only
as in the UK and Dubai).
cultural sensitivities, as well as the
accept cash, so it’s a good idea
There are Wi-Fi hotspots
at a number of locations,
Catch a vintage Jeep transfer across Dadan
as well as in all hotels. If you’re coming from outside Saudi Arabia, you could consider
LEAVE NO TRACE
buying a local mobile SIM card
Help protect your precious heritage
from a telecom provider at Riyadh or Jeddah airports. SIM providers
TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES,
in AlUla include Saudi Telecom
LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS
Company (STC) in Al Sakhirat,
Hegra is the first UNESCO World
Mobily in Al Shamal Market
Heritage Site to be inscribed in Saudi
and Zain in AlUla city centre.
Arabia. It is globally recognised as a precious place. Dadan, Jabal Ikmah
and AlUla Old Town are equally
• The country code for
significant. They are also delicate. We
Saudi Arabia is +966
want our heritage sites and natural
• Tourism Call Centre: 930
beauty spots in AlUla to be marvelled
Tourism International Call
at for thousands of years to come.
Centre: +966 920 000 890
This will only be possible if every visitor
• Police: 999
becomes part of its conservation story,
If you are in a car accident, call
by enjoying your visit while treating this
the traffic police on 993
precious place with care and respect.
• Saudi Ambulance: 997
convenience. They are a short
FURTHER INFORMATION official website experiencealula.com and engage with us on social media @experiencealula via Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
PARK IN THE ALLOCATED AREAS Parking areas are located for your
• Emergency medical consultation: 937
To find out more about AlUla, visit the
From left to right: Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza; Dadan
‘It’s polite to master a few friendly greetings, such as “marhaba” (“hello”)’
SEE YOU AGAIN SOON
RESPECT THE MONUMENTS
walk from the heritage sites
The monuments may seem mighty, but
they are fragile. Regard these sites as
precious treasures, in an extraordinary
• Park your car in the designated
open-air museum, to be admired and
parking areas only.
• Avoid parking near the monuments.
Please: • Do not climb.
KEEP TO THE ROADS. THIS IS A
• Do not scratch, draw or in any way
PRECIOUS LANDSCAPE, WITH
mark the monuments.
HISTORIC REMAINS BURIED BENEATH THE SANDS AT HEGRA.
Saudi Arabia has a number of special occasions and holidays, so if you’re planning a return visit, you may want to bear these dates in mind…
KEEP IT AS YOU FOUND IT
We want to keep AlUla beautiful, and
• Drive on the graded and paved
its heritage intact. We welcome you,
Ramadan. The holy month is a special
Ramadan is likely take place from 13
holiday – known as ‘the greater
not your waste. We want you to make
• Avoid driving on the sand.
time of year, when Muslims dial down
April to 12 May 2021, depending on the
Eid’ – falls on the tenth day in the
memories, not take mementos.
• Avoid driving on the walkways.
the pace and take time to reflect on
sighting of the new moon.
final month (Dhu al-Hijjah) of the
Islamic calendar. Most businesses
• Put your litter in the bin, or take it
Visitors who do not comply will be asked to leave the area.
the important things in life. Those observing Ramadan will fast from
Eid Al Fitr. Marking the end of
remain closed and restaurants
sunrise to sunset and, as a sign of
Ramadan, this is a time for family
may have shorter operating hours
• Do not smoke at Hegra or any other
respect, visitors must refrain from
and friends to come together. In
either side of this holiday. In 2021,
heritage sites, except in designated
eating or drinking in public during
AlUla, this means sharing good food
Eid Al Adha is likely to fall on 20,
Many parts of AlUla are an open
daylight hours. Most cafés and
and conversation with the locals, and
21 or 22 July.
• Do not remove or take anything from
expanse, and exposed to the elements.
restaurants are closed during the day,
taking part in lots of fun activities.
We encourage every visitor to take
although you can usually order room
Bear in mind that, during the first three
Saudi National Day. Join in
• Do not remove or take anything from
responsibility for his or her own
service at your hotel, or order take out
days, some businesses may be closed
the festivities that mark the
health and safety.
and restaurants may operate shorter
anniversary of the unification of
opening hours. In 2021, Eid Al Fitr is
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on
• Stay hydrated.
likely to fall on 12 or 13 May.
23 September. A national holiday
• No fires of any kind are permitted,
• Observe the speed limit.
in the Kingdom, businesses close
AlUla comes to life after sunset, with restaurants opening for iftar – the
meal that breaks the fast – and shops
Eid Al Adha. Celebrating the completion
for the day, allowing special events
• No trees, plants, or stones are to
IN THE CASE OF AN EMERGENCY,
open late into the evening. In 2021,
of the Hajj pilgrimage, the second Eid
and activities to take centre stage.
PLEASE DO Appreciate that Hegra has fascinated generations of explorers and archaeologists. Some of the discoveries date to the Bronze Age, and are almost as old as the Egyptian pyramids. Gaze in awe and admiration at the skills and ingenuity of the builders of Hegra’s tombs. These tombs were once the resting place of families and communities, so please treat them with respect. Understand that AlUla’s heritage sites hold a very special place in the heart of the people of AlUla, and the global heritage community, so please behave with decorum. We hope that you enjoy your visit to this fascinating open-air living museum.
Leave Information no trace 79
TRAVEL SAFELY Travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic requires some extra considerations, and AlUla has a number of measures in place to help make your visit as safe as possible
Body temperature checks are being carried out on all visitors arriving at Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport. Furthermore, in
all public places, people are reminded to maintain a safe distance of two metres apart and avoid physical contact unless absolutely necessary.
Staff and visitors alike are being prompted to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. Youâ€™ll find plenty of sanitisation stations
at the main sites. Where handwashing facilities are not immediately available, sanitiser gel dispensers are provided.
A number of essential employees are on-site at any one time. And staff who come into contact with visitors are provided with masks and
gloves. High-touch items and surfaces are disinfected frequently and areas are kept well ventilated.
Dedicated dining areas have been configured to allow you to sit at safe distances. Tables are sanitised between each use and at the end of
the day. A dedicated security team is on hand to help ensure the guidelines are observed. If you have any questions relating to travelling during the
Covid-19 pandemic, please call the national helpline for tourism queries on 930, which is staffed around the clock.
Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is...
Published on Oct 27, 2020
Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is...